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      The impact of unhealthy food sponsorship vs. pro-health sponsorship models on young adults’ food preferences: a randomised controlled trial

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          Unhealthy foods are promoted heavily, through food company sponsorship of elite sport, resulting in extensive exposure among young adults who are avid sport spectators. This study explores the effects of sponsorship of an elite sporting event by: (A) non-food brands (control), (B) unhealthy food brands, (C) healthier food brands, or (D) an obesity prevention public health campaign on young adults’ brand awareness, attitudes, image perceptions, event-sponsor fit perceptions, and preference for food sponsors’ products.


          A between-subjects web-based experiment was conducted, consisting of four sponsorship conditions (A through D) featuring three product categories within each condition. Australian adults ( N = 1132) aged 18–24 years were recruited via a national online panel. Participants viewed promotional videos and news stories about an upcoming international, multi-sport event (with sponsor content edited to reflect each condition), completed a distractor task, and then answered questions assessing the response variables. Regression analyses were conducted to test for differences by sponsorship condition on the respective outcome measures.


          Compared to the control condition, unhealthy food sponsorship promoted higher awareness of, and more favourable attitudes towards, unhealthy food sponsor brands. Unhealthy food sponsorship also led to greater perceived event-sponsor fit and transfer of perceptions of the sporting event to the unhealthy food sponsor brands, relative to the control group. Exposure to sponsorship for healthier foods produced similar sponsorship effects for healthier food sponsor brands, as well as prompting a significant increase in the proportion of young adults showing a preference for these products. Obesity prevention campaign sponsorship promoted higher campaign awareness and perceived event-sponsor fit, but did not impact food attitudes or preference for unhealthy versus healthier foods.


          Findings suggest that restricting elite sport sponsorship to healthier food brands that meet set nutritional criteria could help promote healthier eating among young adults. Sporting organisations should be encouraged to seek sponsorship from companies who produce healthier food brands and government-funded social marketing campaigns.

          Clinical trial registration

          Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) registration number ACTRN12618000368235. Retrospectively registered 12 March 2018.

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          Most cited references 26

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          The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta-analytic review

          The effect of experimental manipulations of the thin beauty ideal, as portrayed in the mass media, on female body image was evaluated using meta-analysis.
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            Widespread reward-system activation in obese women in response to pictures of high-calorie foods.

            Behavioral studies have suggested that exaggerated reactivity to food cues, especially those associated with high-calorie foods, may be a factor underlying obesity. This increased motivational potency of foods in obese individuals appears to be mediated in part by a hyperactive reward system. We used a Philips 3T magnet and fMRI to investigate activation of reward-system and associated brain structures in response to pictures of high-calorie and low-calorie foods in 12 obese compared to 12 normal-weight women. A regions of interest (ROI) analysis revealed that pictures of high-calorie foods produced significantly greater activation in the obese group compared to controls in medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, nucleus accumbens/ventral striatum, medial prefrontal cortex, insula, anterior cingulate cortex, ventral pallidum, caudate, putamen, and hippocampus. For the contrast of high-calorie vs. low-calorie foods, the obese group also exhibited a larger difference than the controls did in all of the same regions of interest except for the putamen. Within-group contrasts revealed that pictures of high-calorie foods uniformly stimulated more activation than low-calorie foods did in the obese group. By contrast, in the control group, greater activation by high-calorie foods was seen only in dorsal caudate, whereas low-calorie foods were more effective than high-calorie foods in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex. In summary, compared to normal-weight controls, obese women exhibited greater activation in response to pictures of high-calorie foods in a large number of regions hypothesized to mediate motivational effects of food cues.
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              Determinants of Sports Sponsorship Response

               R Speed,  P. Thompson (2000)

                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                20 December 2018
                20 December 2018
                : 18
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 1482 3639, GRID grid.3263.4, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, , Cancer Council Victoria, ; Melbourne, Victoria Australia
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0486 528X, GRID grid.1007.6, Early Start, School of Health and Society, , University of Wollongong, ; Wollongong, New South Wales Australia
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0375 4078, GRID grid.1032.0, School of Psychology, , Curtin University, ; Bentley, Western Australia
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 834X, GRID grid.1013.3, School of Life and Environment Sciences, Faculty of Science, , University of Sydney, ; Sydney, New South Wales Australia
                [5 ]ISNI 0000 0000 8831 109X, GRID grid.266842.c, School of Medicine and Public Health, , University of Newcastle, ; Callaghan, New South Wales Australia
                [6 ]ISNI 000000041936877X, GRID grid.5386.8, Department of Communication, , Cornell University, ; Ithaca, New York USA
                © The Author(s). 2018

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000925, National Health and Medical Research Council;
                Award ID: APP1114923
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2018

                Public health

                sport sponsorship, food marketing, public health, young adults, nutrition, obesity prevention


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